Doing the monarchy’s propaganda I

29 07 2022

There’s a lot of palace propaganda about at present. We guess that most foreigners will rely on news outlets like the Bangkok Post, which has been around since 1946. To be around that long makes it a newspaper of record but also suggests a capacity for keeping on side with the elite. Indeed, its owners and board are of the ruling class.

Royal birthdays are usually regurgitation worthy times. The story on the king – “HM” – sorting everything out and responsible for everything good in government is pretty horrendous. Who knew or believes that “Royally initiated projects have played a vital role in elevating the lives of Thais and providing a cushion during difficult times”? Who knew or believes that the king has a “long list of royal achievements”? The “evidence” for this is a series of unbelievable claims.

Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on says that his ministry “follows the King’s guidance” – who knew or believes the king had any knowledge of agriculture?

The ministry’s claims that there were 1,601 royally initiated projects “implemented and completed in the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years” and another “543 projects … carried out in the 2021 fiscal year.” This seems quite unbelievable. Are there any projects other than royally initiated ones? Or is everything the ministry does labeled royal?

This is followed by claims that the Royal Irrigation Department has “3,402 projects which have been implemented, 3,333 are complete and 69 are under construction.” We wonder that if this is true, how many do anything useful?

Purveying palace propaganda is not just about producing vomit-inducing “stories.” Indeed, it means leaving out much. Of course, there’s long been self-censorship on the monarchy. Part of that has to do with fear of the lese majeste law, but it also has to do with shoring up the ruling class and the royalist ideology that cements that class together.

As part of this process of bending the news – and eliminating some of it – has meant the Bangkok Post has more or less stopped reporting on lese majeste. We did a quick search of the Post online for the past three months and found essentially no reporting of the young protesters who are calling for monarchy reform (there was one story on bail for one of them). Other than that, there was one story on Chadchart Sittipunt’s comment on lese majeste, several stories on the Lazada lese majeste case because it involved celebrities, and a couple of stories on the mad 112 case against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. The vast majority of 112 cases don’t get a mention.

We could be forgiven for thinking that the mainstream media is working for the palace. Certainly, by not reporting the travesties of injustice against the young protesters the Post is not serving its readers.

On the road to nowhere (new)

24 05 2019

Is wasn’t hard to predict the final “election” result. PPT predicted a junta “win” a long time ago. The “win” was never in doubt as the whole process was rigged.

HRW’s Sunai Phasuk put it this way:

The March 24 general election was structurally rigged, enabling the military to extend its hold on power. While maintaining a host of repressive laws, the junta dissolved a main opposition party, took control of the national election commission, levied bogus criminal charges against opposition politicians and dissidents, and packed the Senate with generals and cronies who will have the power to determine the next prime minister, regardless of the election results.

What wasn’t clear is that the bumbling generals would be snookered by the electorate. Thai voters, despite all the rigging and repression still voted for anti-junta parties, with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra Puea Thai Party winning a plurality.

Despite this, the junta’s puppet party, Palang Pracharath, will head up a coalition of some 20 parties. While a great deal of bargaining has gone on, pro-military parties like Bhum Jai Thai and the anti-democrat Democrat Party were always likely to saddle-up with the junta – after all, they have supported it for years and worked for its coup back in 2014.

In a throwback to December 2008, when the military midwifed a government led by the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva, it is reported that there was:

a meeting between Gen Prayut[h Chan-ocha], his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon, Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul and Democrat secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on at a military camp in Bangkok…. They discussed coming together to set up a government with the PPRP as the main party, the sources said, adding that given the atmosphere of the meeting, the “deal” to form the next government is almost sealed.

The wheeling and dealing is over who gets what. Bhum Jai Thai wants a bunch of potentially lucrative cabinet slots that all seem focused on benefits for the Buriram clan. The Democrat Party wants anything at all that will allow it to look stronger than its horrid election result suggest.

Following the junta’s clear message, via the Election Commission and Constitutional Court, that it intends to grind the Future Forward Party into political dust, the deals were more easily struck, with most of the remora micro-parties and even the middle-sized parties rushing into the octopus-grasp of the junta.

How strong that grasp will be is yet to be tested. A 20-party coalition is a recipe for instability or for massive corruption in keeping it together. There’s also the “Prem model” who tried to ignore party and parliamentary bickering and ruled as a cabinet-led government. Like Gen Prem, Gen Prayuth has a tame Senate. In fact, the Senate looks rather like the puppet National Legislative Assembly of the past few years.

A weak coalition government with an autocratic premier suggests that The Dictator will require strong support from extra-parliamentary sources – the king and the military. Neither is likely to be maintained without cost and deals.

Back in the 1980s, the main threats and support for Gen Prem were extra-parliamentary, and despite the image of a period of stability, saw several coup attempts.

PADocrat propaganda

27 08 2013

At The Nation there was a recent and interesting interview with Democrat Party member Kalaya Sophonpanich, a scion of the fabulously wealthy banking family. She has recently been pretending to be a political activist, being:

… among the first leading Democrat [Party] figures to appear on the anti-government People’s Army stage at Lumpini Park on August 18. Two days earlier, she joined Democrat MPs Kasit Piromya, Nipit Intarasombat and Chalermchai Srion to meet People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leaders to talk about forming an alliance. In January 2006, she joined a PAD march from Lumpini Park to Government House to pressure then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra into resigning.

Why Kalaya, Kasit, Nipit and Chalermchai? She says: “We have been friends for a long time and always talk together. If we have the same ideas and same purpose to overthrow ‘Thaksin’s regime’, we should fight together seriously.” PAD and the ‘crats as long term comrades is not news to anyone who watched Kasit and Kalaya chanting for PAD.

On PAD pushing the Democrat Party to quit parliament and join a mass protest does not mean “the end of our relationship. The Democrats [she means the Party] can join with anybody who loves Thailand.”

Bizarrely, Kalaya believes it is the government “becoming more aggressive,” not her own party’s thuggish behavior that is aggressive. Even more bizarrely, she confuses the Democrat Party for the current government when she blathers “when you fight the government and lose, they will put you in jail for sure.”

And finally, she reckons the Democrat Party is broke! With a bunch of multimillionaire backers, she seems lost in a fantasy of self-delusion.

The Nation confirms that the PAD remain onside with the Democrat Party, stating:

Although the leadership of the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy had decided to step down, they would resume their fight against the Thaksin regime when the time is right, he said. PAD supporters have approached the Democrat Party about working together to campaign against the government…

Meanwhile, at Arabian Business, it seems the Democrat Party propagandists have decided that self-delusion can be bolstered by simply making stuff up.

The Democrat Party’s propaganda arm, Blue Sky TV, has claimed that Thaksin was “threatened by Al Qaeda in a clip posted on YouTube.” While every responsible source has said the video was a fake, Blue Sky not only used it but has added a claim “that authorities in the Gulf state had asked him [Thaksin] to leave…” the UAE because of it.

The Democrat Party mouthpiece presented no evidence at all. We guess that ASTV staff are busy helping Blue Sky make stuff up.


Updated: Democrat Party threats

17 08 2013

PPT was struck by a story at The Nation where the Democrat Party is said to have been the organizer of the recent rally that was originally said to have been arranged by the so-called People’s Army.

The story says that Democrat Party leaders led the rally “in a show of force to oppose the amnesty bill now before Parliament.” If it was a “show of force,” it failed as there weren’t many there. The story goes on to say that:

… the opposition [party] has demonstrated its potential to mobilise the masses and lead anti-government rallies. It also wants to prove that many people are ready to come out against the amnesty bill if it appears the government has a hidden agenda to help fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The story then claims that the [so-called] Democrats:

knew that with only 163 votes, they could not stop the government camp from passing the [amnesty] bill, and that its first street rally against the legislation was just an “appetiser”.

Democrat Party boss Suthep Thaugsuban is said to have “warned that … the party was preparing a knockout punch should the bill pass in the third reading [of the bill].”

The reporter reckons that this refers to “mega street protests.” It is added in the “best” tradition of The Nation as a fearless reporter and supporter of yellow politics:

If the government does not keep its word, and instead resorts to underhanded tactics to help Thaksin, the Democrats may not have to resort to mass mobilisation. Other anti-government protesters such as the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the multi-coloured shirts and the white-maskers would all take to the street to oppose the legislation.

For PPT it is clear that the groups mentioned here are all the same, working together, as they did in earlier years, even if they are all much weakened. But a difference now is that the Democrat Party is ditching its parliamentary role to help bring the old anti-Thaksin alliance back together, threatening violence.

Add to this the People’s Army attempt to mobilize vocational students a la 1976 strikes PPT as being a significant threat of violence.

Interestingly, many of those involved were also privy to the coup planning in 2006. So little seems to have changed for this lot.

Update: As we prepared this post, a new report confirming much of what we said above has become available at The Nation.

The relationship between the Democrat Party and PAD has long been a strong one. Again making that link explicit and formalized, it is reported that the two groups “have agreed to join political forces to fight ‘Thaksin’s regime, Democrat [Party] MP Nipit Intarasombat said yesterday.” Of course, this is no more than a restatement of their long relationship.

Nipit has met with PAD leader Panthep Puapongpan “to discuss political strategy.” Nipit is reported as stating that the two right-wing and royalist groups “had a common ground and it was now time for the two sides to join forces to fight the regime.” Other members of the ill-monikered Democrat Party included none other than PAD speaker and former foreign minister Kasit Piromya, who stated he enjoyed the PAD occupation of airports in 2008, Party secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on, and scion of the rich, Kalaya Sophonpanich.

The two groups plan to bring “unity and political clout” to the anti-Thaksin movement. Nipit even stated that Democrat Party MPs may resign their parliamentary seats to become street activists.

The rejection of parliament is a core PAD theme, and the Democrat Party seems to have decided that they will do the same. It seems that virtually none in the royalist elite can accept the will of the electorate.

With major updates: PADocrat Party

30 05 2012

It is no surprise at all that the democratically-inept Democrat Party is announcing that it is still in bed People’s Alliance for Democracy. Yes, they had a lovers’ spat when the Democrat Party was the military’s proxy party in government from 2008 to 2011, but things are now back to normal.

“Normal” means that the Democrat Party “says it will back protests” that PAD has organized against any reconciliation bill that “whitewashes” Thaksin Shinawatra.

Democrat Party secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on revealed “that Democrat MPs could join the yellow shirt PAD’s rally outside parliament today.” And why not? They supported PAD rallies and showed up for them before 2008. That includes party leaders like Abhisit Vejjajiva and Korn Chatikavanij. The latter even wrote that he supported illegal acts by PAD. Kasit Piromya, who became foreign minister under Abhisit was a speaker at PAD rallies.

One of Abhisit’s close supporters, the deeply yellow Democrat Party MP Thepthai Senapong “encouraged viewers of his TV programme to participate.” He believed that “the rally the beginning of a second round of battle against the Thaksin regime.” That is classic PADspeak.

PPT wonders how much support the Sino-Thai business elite, military and palace will give the PADocrats this time round. We guess that they have the go-ahead from these groups for an initial testing of the protest waters.

Update 1: While their yellow-shirted brothers and sisters rallied outside parliament, the PADocrat Party played its part and disrupted parliament and, if the video is to be believed, actually assaulted the House Speaker:

Update 2: At the Bangkok Post there is some commentary on the PAD rally, with the Tul Sitthisomwong ultra-royalist faction rallying close by in small numbers and in support of his PAD leaders. At the PAD stage, Sondhi Limthongkul “announced from the rally stage that the PAD will continue with its protest until it achieves victory in its fight against the reconciliation bill…”. Sondhi stated that any “move is taken to pass an amnesty law, the PAD will stage a rally…”.

Sondhi added that PAD opposition is partly motivated by the ultra-royalist perspective that a reconciliation bill infringes the king’s power:  “Annulling a court verdict is tantamount to infringement on the King’s power. However many days our rally will last depends on when we get victory…”.

The idea that the judiciary is the king’s tool is an interesting constitutional position.


Why did the Democrat Party lose?

12 08 2011

The Democrat Party should have been humiliated by its massive election defeat. It should have been able to identify its failures and should be able to learn from them.* The increasingly rightist-royalist Bangkok Post has a brief interview with Prachuap Khiri Khan member of parliament Chalermchai Sri-on who recently replaced Suthep Thaugsuban as secretary-general of the Democrat Party. Chalermchai suggests that nothing much is likely to change for the party.

In the first place, Chalermchai claims he took his new position because re-elected Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva recommended him to replace Suthep. Chalermchai says the “the party leader picked” him.

It seems that despite “having blood on his hands,” Abhisit is as far as the royalist party can currently see. The party is unable to understand that Mark’s Teflon-coating has been scratched and eroded. He is damaged and is unlikely to be seen by the electorate as a viable candidate for prime minister for some time or unless there is some major political implosion. Abhisit is to be forever associated with the military’s manipulation of politics, his puppet-like relationship with the military and the political old guard and the bloody crackdown on red shirts in 2010.

When asked why the Democrat Party lost, Chalermchai claims the “defeat holds out lessons.” What has been learned? Chalermchai says the “main reason is a lack of channels to send out messages to people. Even though we were the government, our communication channels were insufficient.We initiated policies based on reality as we saw it, but some needed time to implement.”

Chalermchai seems to ignore the most basic reasons for the party’s failure: the party is associated with military repression. The party is associated with anti-democratic actions. Chalermchai seems to think that a bit of better PR will make all the difference: “we must seek out professionals to help us work on some areas.” He then pinpoints what the real problem with the party is: “We must listen more to the voices of people around us, our party members or even the media.”

Well, yes, but it depends on who the “people around us” are. It seems to PPT that the Democrat Party has spent most of its time listening to rich bankers, right-wing royalists, old men in the palace and military leaders who believe that they live in the 1960s. All of these people are demonstrably out of touch with the people. Listening to these same people and the royalist extremists of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and those who pushed for a coup in 2006 is simply not going to work if the Democrat Party is going to take representative politics seriously.

If Chalermchai is to be believed, then nothing has been learned. That’s bad for the future of democratic politics in Thailand.

*As we finished this post, we noted Suranand Vejjajiva’s consideration of similar questions, and he’s worth reading.

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